Tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease are two of the most common oral diseases. Injuries to the face and head can also compromise the health of your teeth. However, here are a few less common oral health problems that may be worth seeking help with from your dentist or doctor.
Herpes isn’t just a sexually transmitted disease. It is a fairly contagious virus that can infect children and adults throughout their lifetimes. The first exposure to the herpes simplex virus is called “primary herpes,” and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) describes its symptoms as sore, swollen and red features affecting the gum tissue. It may also increase saliva flow and develop blisters inside your mouth. Although these sores can heal in seven to 14 days, the virus remains in the body inactively. It can then become active again when dealing with stress, fatigue, fever or sun exposure. The good news is over-the-counter medication or antiviral medications can help shorten an outbreak of “cold sores” or “fever blisters” and alleviate your discomfort.
Oral cancers account for only 2 per cent of the cancers diagnosed each year, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). The main risk factors are tobacco and alcohol use, but sun exposure often causes cancer of the lip. No matter what the ultimate cause, prevention and early diagnosis can’t be stressed enough. Your dentist regularly checks for signs of oral cancer during dental visits, so this is an important reason not to miss a checkup appointment.
Temporomandibular Joint Pain
You can close and open your mouth, chew, speak and swallow through the actions of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) located on both sides of your head. But if these joints or surrounding muscles and ligaments don’t work properly, you can end up with a painful TMJ disorder. Joint pain can be caused by arthritis, poor jaw and tooth alignment, an injury or dislocation or from grinding your teeth.
Many medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, can affect the amount of saliva in your mouth, as can radiation treatments, chemotherapy and certain health conditions like AIDS and Sjögren’s syndrome. The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) explains that without saliva, you aren’t able to wash away harmful bacteria in your mouth; therefore, aside from causing discomfort, an extremely dry mouth can lead to bad breath, mouth sores, gum disease and a higher risk of tooth decay.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a frustrating condition, occurring mostly in middle-aged or older woman, according to the NIDCR. Hormonal changes, dry mouth, nutritional deficiencies, fungal infections and nerve damage are all possible causes and don’t always result from a bad habit. Symptoms may include a tingling or burning sensation on the tongue or other areas of the mouth, a dry or sore mouth or even changes in taste. These symptoms may be constant or come and go, and unfortunately, they can last a few months or a few years. If you’re struggling with BMS through any of these symptoms, see your doctor or dentist so that you can get to the root cause and on the road to relief.
You and your family are probably working hard to prevent gum disease and tooth decay, but if you are dealing with any of these uncommon oral health problems, see your dentist as soon as you can. There’s no need to suffer when help is just an appointment away.